Commandment and Conquer by Xavier Escobedo

“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”

“When was your last confession, my son?”

“It must have been about a year.”

“Why have you waited so long?”

No sé, time and work.”

“The salvation of your soul is more important. Your soul is eternal and will be judged by St. Peter when you reach the gates of heaven. You must be free of sin when you die. Do you know when you are going to die, my son?”


“You can die tomorrow or you can die next month. Only God knows when that time is. You must confess more often. Please, tell me your sins.”

Raphael sat in the suffocating, dimly lit confessional, frustrated and annoyed. Dead, dusty purified skin cells danced in the little light that shot through the ornate, thin wood carvings of the door. Goddamn, that’s a lot of dust.

“I have used the Lord’s name in vain,” said Raphael.

“Breaking the Second Commandment is a mortal sin. Proceed, my son.”

“I haven’t been to church in over a year.”

“Keeping holy the Sabbath Day is the only thing God asks of us. One hour of your time. God doesn’t ask …”

The priest’s words faded as Raphael began hearing his wife’s.

“You need to go to confession! What kind of example are you setting for Danielito and Teresita? They see you on the couch every Sunday, drinking beer!”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Promise me you’ll go to church with us today!”

“I don’t feel like it. I just want to relax in my own —”

“Proceed, my son,” interrupted the priest.

“Uh, I hit my daughter when she disrespected her mother.”

“That’s not a sin, unless you beat her out of malice or pleasure.”

“Well, it’s a sin to me.”

“Was it out of pleasure?”

“What!? No.”


“No. I just felt really bad.”

“It’s discipline. You must teach her to follow the Fourth Commandment, my son.”

You need to shut the fuck up. I’m not your son.

“I saw my neighbor’s truck at the supermarket and stuck a knife in his tire.”


“Why does it matter? I just want to get rid of my sins.”

“Talking to me is like talking to God. I’m a direct representative of our Father. Show some respect.”

Raphael knocked on the door of the confessional lightly. He placed the back of his hand on his cheek and adjusted his voice.

“Is someone in here?” was Raphael’s horrible attempt to sound like a woman.

“Yes, I’m almost done,” replied Raphael to himself.

“Father, I’m sorry for showing disrespect to you. In truth, I coveted my neighbor’s truck and stabbed his tire out of jealousy. He also has a little dog that poops on my yard and a tree that drops a ton of leaves and I hate him. Please tell me, what would Jesus do? And how can I become a better person?”

“My son, you must —”

Raphael snuck out the door stealthily like a leopard in the night. He lightly jogged to his family, sitting in the last pews waiting for him; kneeling believers glanced at him out of curiosity and for potential gossip.

Vamonos! Vamonos! Let’s go!” said Raphael in an authoritative whisper.

“What’s wrong?” asked Lupe.

“No time. Let’s go babe, andale!”

Raphael ran out the door without bowing or blessing his forehead with holy water. He slid down the railing of San Vicente’s entrance and ran to the car. Danielito was laughing as he sprinted to catch up to his father. Teresita and Lupe weren’t that far behind and got into the car in a confused panic.

“Why are we running?” asked Lupe.

“The priest was trying to fuck with —”

Son of a bitch.

The priest rushed out of the entrance and, before he ran down the stairs, raised both of his hands to the sky. He was a swan flapping its wings as his long white robe dangled from his hairy forearms. A group of old women pointed judgmental fingers at Raphael’s car in the parking lot. The priest’s godlike eyes met Raphael’s and thunder shot through the grey clouds. Don’t be fooled, for Raphael was no Leda, and he started the ignition. The priest floated down the stairs and flew to the car with his white and purple robes slapping in the wind. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me. He ran to the front of the car and extended his arms horizontally like the letter “T.” Thou shalt not kill.

The priest’s face was red as he huffed and puffed from his short run. He walked to the driver’s side window, like an officer about to make an arrest. He knocked on the window. Lupe hung her head in her hands as she tried to shield herself from the embarrassment. The kids were wide-eyed as Raphael rolled the window down a few inches.

“YOU DON’T DO THAT!” shouted the priest.

“Okaybye,” said Raphael so quickly that it came out as one word. He sped off into the street without looking for oncoming traffic and never showed his face in San Vicente ever again.


Xavier Escobedo was born in Miami and grew up in the Florence district of South Los Angeles. Since then, he has called the City of Pomona home and will be attending Cal Poly Pomona in the fall. This is his first published work.